A while ago I came across an information that approx 50% of respondents do not understand the jokes we make in written correspondence (a reference to e-mail in particular). Even if this is too much of a generalization and not particularly accurate, the proportion makes one think. Jokes are just one facet of communication. We might expect that in the entirety of what we communicate on paper or on the screen, a significant part gets lost on its way. This is point 1.
Point 2. During a meeting with a VP of my organization (I work in finance) my interlocutor mentioned that he wanted to convince people to use email only when appropriate, that this channel was overused in our internal environment. He stressed that F2F communication is always key to understanding each other. In any case, phones should be used before reaching out for the computer. If history (a trace) was necessary, writing a short email followed by a call would be advised.
Think it over. If you write an email and you get a response with requests for clarifications, further elaboration, isn’t it a sign you ought to pick up the receiver? Shouldn’t you have done it in the first place?
When it comes to Project Management, they often say that a good PM rarely stays in his office room.
Point 3. I had an interesting conversation with my superior lately. Unfortunately, only after we had concluded I realized we weren’t synchronized. It must have looked pretty funny from a different perspective. Picture this — he was thinking on paper. He took out a clean sheet, a pen and drew in parallel to his words. He underlined his arguments with the drawings in front of him. On the other hand, I was using words — descriptive, long sentences. Since I didn’t feel this “communion of understanding” between us, I tried to explain my arguments in… words, yet again.
Needless to say, both of us felt tired and unsatisfied with the course / result of our conversation.
Our ability to synchronize with others — first by listening, learning (stepping back to do so), and then communicating by using similar means / levels (e.g. sight, hearing, feeling) and channels as the other persons — greatly affects our chances to build relationships and get things done. Lessons learned? I pick up a clean sheet of paper and pen even when talking on a phone. I present my arguments aloud and draw pictures simultaneously. A flip-chart is my friend.
If our chances of success in communication can be increased by using several channels at once, why not give it a try?